Old Town

The Sanctuary » Old Town

  • old chapel
    old chapel
  • old chapel inside
    old chapel inside
  • museum of St. Maximilian
    museum of St. Maximilian
  • the Fire Brigade Museum
    the Fire Brigade Museum
  • the Fire Brigade Museum
    the Fire Brigade Museum
  • "Minerwa"
    "Minerwa"

For a big part of the original monastery, which was a strict Clausura once and which is open to public now, we use the name the Old Town by analogy to other towns. Increased pilgrimage traffic required some changes and investments, which allow people who come here to spend the time in a beneficial way.

One can enter the Old Town in Niepokalanow by the monastery gate or through the gate from the church square.

At the gate there is a plaque with an inscription: "The Monastery of Franciscan Fathers" and just beside on the wall there is a big crucifix, carved in wood. The figure of Christ has such suffering on its face that each passer-by stops involuntarily at least for a while. The monks and pilgrims kiss the cross with veneration...

The monastery gate is a very important point of the convent. It is the eye and the ear of the whole organism. The gate-keeper lets the comers in, and lets them out, opens the door for vehicles, takes care of all those who come with The interior of the Basil ica some business, gives information, - a view towards the quire operates the extension board, receives orders for the subscriptions of monthlies, calls for monks when they have guests, turns on the alarm signal and fulfils lots of other functions. One can order an early morning wake up with him. He welcomes the incomers with a smile.

The Papal Gate leads from the church square to the monastery. That gate is a historical reminder of the Holy Father's visit to Nie-pokalanow. The Pope went through the gate after visiting St. Maximilian's cell when he was aiming at the basilica for the meeting with the representatives of monastic communities.

After going through the monastery gate or the Papal Gate we pass the buildings of the original monastery. In the closest one, on the right, before the war and just after the wTar there was the management of the monastery. Fr. Maximilian lived in the corner cell n°19 on the first floor, from where he was transported to Pawiak on the 17th February 1941.

Due to the respect to this place and to the relics staying there the cell is not open for the pilgrims. Its replica may be visited in St. Maximilian's Museum.

The Saint's flat is a small room. In the middle there is a big desk with a shelf full of compartments for sorting the matters that were dealt with. Beside there is a simple stool on which St. Maximilian used to sit and a folded chair for the people who came to see him. On the desk there is the Visitors' Book in which celebrities enter their inscriptions together with the inscription of the Noble Pilgrim who prayed here in 1983. At the wall there is an iron bed; it is simple and probably not very comfortable. In the neighbouring room wThich was used by the personal secretary of the superior there are two small wardrobes and two show-cases with: a habit, a coat, shoes and small reminders like writing tools, an alarm clock, a globe which reminded the Saint about conquering the world for the Immaculate, a wash-bowl he used for washing and a mug and a wooden spoon - from the concentration camp.

[...]

On the square beside the museum there is the monument to Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński who distinguished himself as a great friend of Niepokalanow and a special worshipper of the Mother of God and St. Maximilian. His memorable words: "Don't dash the spirit of Father Maximilian" became an appeal to develop the sanctuary of the Holy Martyr. The monument was created by Friar Maurycy Kowalewski of Niepokalanow.

The dearest place for Niepokalanow people is the "old chapel" where Fr. Maximilian served the Holy Masses, where the friars gave monastic vows, where everything reminds the beginnings of the monastery. They are used to calling it Portiuncula, as if a cradle of the monastery. The chapel had been used as a Memory Room for the objects left by St. Maximilian until the time when the museum was created. After a major repair and conservatory work the chapel was open to the faithful for the less populated services and for silent prayer. The renewed chapel, with the original interior design, was consecrated again by Cardinal Jozef Glemp dedicating it to St. Maximilian. The event took place on the 7th of December 1997 on the 70th anniversary of erecting that small church. The chapel holds two big statues: of Our Lady of Lourdes and of St. Francis of Assisi. The first one was bought in Lourdes by Countess Walewska-Hanzel when she was restored back to health after her prayers. In 1918 she offered the statue for the Franciscan

church in Lodz Lagiewniki but the monastery superior transferred it to Niepokalanow in 1929. St. Maximilian often prayed in the presence of that statue and he kissed the feet of Our Lady when leaving the chapel.

The statue of St. Francis is one of the last works of Friar Maurycy Kowalewski, the monastery sculptor, who died in 2004.

Next to the chapel there is the monastic cell where St. Maximilian lived in the years 1927-1930. There are chasubles, a missal and ampoules used by the Saint which once stayed in the old sacristy. At the small square of Niepokalanow Old Town with a few roads running from it there are a few objects which are worth seeing. A statue of Our Lady the Immaculate on a conical pedestal of paving stones where Fr. Kolbe used to pray the rosary while walking around is standing in the shade of two huge birch trees. Nearby, on a small hill we can see the monument to St. Francis of Assisi when he greets the beautiful world in a gesture of widely stretched arms: "Be praised, my Lord, with all Your creatures, with the Brother Sun, who brings the day and we are given light through him by You" (from the "Canticle of the Sun" by St. Francis).

On the square there is the first well, one of nine, which had supplied the inhabitants with water until the monastery was included in the communal pipeline and sewage systems. The old monks say that it was good and tasted like wine.

A part of cobble stoned street, which was done just after the founding of the monastery, was left to keep the original style of this part of Niepokalanow.

A two-storey big-size building is the Retreat-Forming House dedicated to St. Theresa of Jesus. It is big and comfortable with a chapel, a conference room and a canteen. It is used all year round by organised

groups and individual pilgrims for their spiritual revival and for their creative work. Beside there is a shelter for pilgrims looking for a place to rest or to eat their own meals.

There is one more building which catches the attention of visitors. It is a big building on a small hill with a large inscription: "Voluntary Fire Brigade in Niepokalanow". Monastic fire brigade has existed in the monastery since 1931. They have defended not only the monastery buildings from fire but they helped in the surrounding villages in many cases. Our firemen are called to road accidents or during floods or gales to remove the damages. Upstairs, in the fire brigade house, there is the Fire Brigade Museum. It is something most original. There are not many institutions like that in the country. One of firemen friars had a rare hobby: he collected various fire-fighting objects and tools. The most important exhibit is an old vehicle from 1903, later transformed into a fire-engine and hand pumps from the 19th century.

The main road leading from the square is called "Holy Father's Road" because he came along this road from our provisional airport to St. Maximilian's cell. The road leads to the place where the papal altar stood. On the way we pass a big building - a garage with a small car repair workshop, beside there is a fire pool surrounded by a box wreath and the building of the publishing house with a printing house, a bindery and a dispatching room from where "The Knight of the Immaculate", "The Bulletin of Militia Immaculatae", "The Little Knight" and books are sent to the world. The publishing house employs a lot of monks and laymen. There are two editors: of the magazines and of books. Since the time of founding Niepokalanow the printing technique in the house has changed a lot. Thanks to that the printed word in a colour outfit reaches the readers easier. The manager with the help of his secretary office takes care of

the whole of the publishing house, settles all formal matters and corresponds with authors, administration offices and other institutions. The facilities connected with the publishing house are unavailable for visitors and one can look into the printing house through the window only.

Our walk around Niepokalanow Old Town has finished. We can see a metal gate with a sign "Religious Clausura" on it.